Recently, the U.S. Air Force announced that it has conducted an inert test last month of an upgraded version of one of its nuclear gravity bombs, the B61. The testing of the better, smarter nuclear bomb is part of an effort to refurbish the nuclear arsenal—an upgrade that comes amid efforts by President Donald Trump to review the nation’s nuclear capabilities.
An F-16 dropped the non-nuclear B61-12 over the Nellis Test and Training Range complex in Nevada. Experts assessed core functions such as the weapon’s fire control system, radar altimeter, spin rocket motors, and control computer. The initiative was part of the nuclear life-extension program overseen by the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center in partnership with the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.
“The B61-12 gravity bomb ensures the current capability for the air-delivered leg of the U.S. strategic nuclear triad well into the future for both bombers and dual-capable aircraft supporting NATO,” Paul Waugh, director of Air-Delivered Capabilities at the nuclear division, told Newsweek.
The B61-12 is designed to be compatible with a number of U.S. and allied aircrafts, and its high-tech tail kit assembly helps to improve its accuracy—allowing for greater guidance. Precision has also been boosted from within 360 feet of the current models to less than 100 feet.
This program has been the most expensive bomb project the United States has ever invested in. Additional of hundreds of millions will be spent if the country moves forward with integrating the weapons to fit aircraft and maintain stockpiles in Europe.
The six-month process was commissioned by an executive order signed in Trump’s first week of presidency. The order demanded an assessment of the nation’s nuclear forces in light of the current geopolitical scheme. Former President Obama conducted the last review in 2010—but the new administration will take into account heightened tensions in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
Modernizing our country’s entire nuclear arsenal will cost about $400 billion by 2026, one figure notes.